The Swiss ambassador to Croatia, Stefan Estermann, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Branko Grčić signed the bilateral framework agreement for cooperation in the context of the enlargement contribution. The agreement sets out the essential objectives and size of the contribution as well as the most important implementation provisions, and lists the thematic focus areas for cooperation. With the signing of the framework agreement, implementation of the enlargement contribution to the newest EU member state, which acceded to the EU in July 2013, can now begin. Switzerland and Croatia must give their final approval for all projects by 31 May 2017 at the latest.
Switzerland will support Croatia in the areas of water treatment, supply of drinking water, research and vocational education and training. In addition, there are plans for a fund for non-governmental organisations and a partnership fund to promote exchange of knowledge between the two countries. Together with Croatia, Switzerland intends to continue the process of demining and integrating the victims of landmines into society and the job market.
Through its enlargement contribution Switzerland is helping to reduce economic and social disparities within the enlarged EU. This commitment is in Switzerland's interest; it is an expression of solidarity and responsibility and contributes to Croatia's stability and economic development. Moreover, the Swiss economy benefits from access to the EU's extended internal market.
Since 2007, Switzerland has contributed CHF 1.257 billion to projects and programmes in the 12 countries that have acceded to the EU since 2004. The legal basis for the enlargement contribution is the Federal Act on Cooperation with the States of Eastern Europe that was approved by the Swiss electorate on 26 November 2006. Parliament approved a framework credit of CHF 45 million for Croatia last December on the basis of the act.
The enlargement contribution is part of the Swiss Confederation's cooperation with the countries of Eastern Europe and the CIS, which includes "transition cooperation". Whereas the contribution to EU enlargement provides support to the new EU member states, transition cooperation promotes the rule of law, democracy and the social market economy in selected countries that are not EU members, in the Western Balkans and the former Soviet Union.
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